Gemma has decided to kick Simon out after finding proof of his affair, so leaves the birthday party early, comes home, stuffs some of his clothes into suitcases, and stacks them in the hall. Except… when he gets in he’s so drunk he doesn’t even notice them, and goes straight to bed. It’s a bit like trying to start a fight with someone who doesn’t want to join in, and by the morning Gemma has decided to adopt a different approach: the suitcases are unpacked, the clothes put away, and she’s pretending it didn’t happen. Which she’s able to, because Simon has no recollection of it. It’s difficult to know exactly what she’s up to, though: is she trying to save her marriage and keep her family together, or does she have a darker purpose in mind?
Like last week’s episode, this one takes an unnecessarily long time to get where it needs to. Most of the first half is dispensable, except for a scene in which Katie, Simon’s lover, comes in to the medical practice for an appointment with Ros. Gemma – who left ethical proprieties behind last time – switches patients and examines Katie herself, thus discovering that she’s pregnant. This is a tense little scene: there’s something coolly and daringly insouciant about Katie’s conduct throughout, as she clarifies for Gemma’s benefit that she’s in a relationship with a married man. Jodie Comer is very good here, of course, as we know from My Mad Fat Diary she can be.
Gemma also pisses off her actual patient, the one who had come in to see her, although since she thereafter manages to find any number of ways to contravene medical guidelines in her dealings with him it might reasonably be said that cancelling an appointment is comparatively small beer. In fact, when she later confides about the affair in the old lush who used to be a partner in her medical practice, he suggests that perhaps she should tell Simon about the baby. “I’m not ethically allowed to”, she replies, which suggests that she really is, by this stage, straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel.
It’s all worth it, though, for two things which happen in the second half of the episode. Firstly, for everyone who’s been screaming “JUST EFFING TELL HIM!” at the TV, it looks as if Gemma’s going to do just that: she confronts Simon and tells him that she thinks he’s having an affair, that she thinks she could get over that, but that she couldn’t live with him lying about it. For a couple of seconds it looks as if he’s going to crumble, but he sticks to the lie; thus, you would think, effectively pissing in his own chips, and once again returning us to the question of what exactly Gemma’s planning to do, given that she has the goods on Simon but seems oddly reluctant to let him know it. (The preview for next week suggests that an ill-advised hook-up with the smoothie across the road is what she has in mind, but that can’t be everything.)
And the episode also starts to make explicit something which was hinted at in the first episode: Gemma’s an outsider in the town, who moved from London when she married Simon, and everyone else knows Simon better than she does. (And it looks as if quite a few people – including her mother-in-law – also know about the affair.) So his pre-Gemma past as a Stakhanovite shagger comes into play – did anyone else wonder whether Ros, perhaps, had very good reasons for knowing about that? – as does his own father’s infidelity. It gives the rest of the season somewhere to go beyond just a lengthy exploration of a marital breakdown: a sort of passive-aggressive middle-class Straw Dogs. Straw Labradoodles, if you will. Which means it’s probably just about worth continuing to watch, but only just about.